My first one-night stand was shortly after I moved to New York City. I didn’t lose my virginity until after high school, and since college was all about relationships, being in love, and the type of stuff you see in a John Hughes film, the opportunity never arose. It was also something that, in my mind, seemed like the worst possible situation in the world.
If we think about it, realistically, one-night stands really are one of the worst, or at the very least, most awkward situations in which to find yourself. You are having sex with a stranger, your bodies are as close as two bodies can possibly be without being in utero and, depending on how open you are, you’re likely to do some things that most people never get to witness. How many of your friends know what you look like when you come? Exactly.
That first one-night stand was horrible. I had met him at a bar while waiting for friends, we exchanged numbers and after my night came to an end, I texted him. He came over, we had sex, I tried to convince myself I enjoyed it, and when it was over I laid there wondering how long I had to pretend to be interested in his chatter before I kicked him out. A scene from When Harry Met Sally ran through my mind; the one where Harry is telling Sally that after he goes home with a woman he tries to figure out how long he has to hold her – “Is 30 seconds enough?” he asks. In my case, 30 seconds seemed like an eternity.
When he decided to go for round two, I rolled off the bed with the sheet wrapped around me and told him my roommate didn’t like random guests in the apartment, so he should leave. And left he did; I never saw him again.
Part of me felt great! I had scored! I had gotten laid, and done that one-night stand thing that I had seen in movies thousands of times. But then there was another part of me that was confused. I knew I’d never see him again, I didn’t care to see him again, and I struggled to wonder if in not caring that meant something about me. It was my first one-night stand after all, and you’re just not sure how to handle it.
Of course, that would not be my last. I say “of course,” because in the almost 10 years I’ve been in New York City, I’ve been single more than I’ve been in relationships, and that’s what single people do who are not “ready” for something “more.”
I’ve woken up hungover with a guy’s naked body draped over my hips, trapped under his weight while having to pee and not being able to make my exist, I’ve slipped out of apartments without a pair of underwear or bra because I didn’t have the energy to find them, and I have done that really fun thing where you pretend to be asleep while the person you took home makes their own escape. And each time, that whole leaving aspect, wasn’t any less awkward. In fact, as I became a pro at it, it became even more awkward because I had it down to a science. When something becomes second nature you start to wonder exactly what the purpose is behind something that has become so naturally inherent. My thoughts always go to “So this is it? This is all I get? Is that why I’m a master at it?”
In the past year, I had a lot of one-night stands. A LOT. I had more in the last year alone than I’ve had in my whole life combined. While I think in some ways I was trying to erase a certain someone from my body, I also think it was my time to try out different people, people who strayed from my usual brand of crazy, and people that maybe no would expect me to take home. And I had fun; I had a lot of fun, and in the past year, I learned to put the awkwardness aside and be able to laugh. I was able to say “it’s just sex” and mean it, and walk away unscarred.
My last one-night stand came right before Christmas. It was not an active decision to make it an entire year of one-night stands, then quit as if it were the equivalent to any addiction. It happened with just a few words from the person I took home that night: “You know, you deserve more than a one-night stand, right?”
I had never thought I was deserving or undeserving of either a one-night stand or otherwise. But there was something about him, this person I had just met a few hours before, the one I took home, saying this that shifted something in me. I all of a sudden lost the desire to go out with my friends, pick up a guy and get laid. I was, in that moment, done.
It turned out that L was not my last one-night stand; the guy before him was.
I strongly feel that one-night stands are a necessary part of sexual exploration. I realize some don’t agree, and for many, the thought of going to bed with a stranger is as terrifying as it comes. Then there are those of us who, for whatever reason, love them and crave them, for either a night of pure physical contact or to fill a hole that’s been left.
But I also feel that you get to a point, where you’ve had your fun, you’ve collected your data, you’ve tried out things and people that worked, didn’t work and kinda worked, then you move on to the next chapter. Some may think that the only way to step out of one-night stand mode is to find yourself a match, a partner who prevents you from that one-night stand mentality, but it’s not always true. Sometimes you just stop, because whatever was propelling you in the first place just goes away. It’s not a lack of sex drive or a lack of anything in particular, it’s an end.
I know for a fact that my one-night stand days helped make me who I am. And if anyone tried to argue me on it, I’d do that thing where I put my hand on my hip, and shake my other hand furiously while giving some insane non-sensical explanation on love and sex and body acceptance. Because that’s what I do in real life; shake my hand and not make sense.
I’m not saying that I’ll never have a one-night stand again for as long as I live, but I am saying that for right now, and probably for a long time, my research is done. I’ve made my notes, thanked my participants in the study and now I have to figure out how to put it in my dissertation and graduate onto the next stage with flying colors.
So I guess this is less of a case against one-night stands, and more of a case of accepting that your one-night stands are over. It’s not easy to break a habit without another habit on which to fall, but trust me, you’ll get to that point where your notebooks are full and you’ll realize your one-night stands days are done, too. And, honestly, at some point, you just don’t have any extra bras to spare.
Photo: Jack Tew/Vimeo